Knights beat Bonnies in CBI, Rams next
Published: Sunday, March 20, 2011
Updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011 18:03
More postseason basketball is coming to the UCF Arena.
The Knights (20-11) found a way to weather an aggressive attack from the visiting St. Bonaventure Bonnies on March 16, winning by a comfortable 15-point margin, 69-54.
The win, UCF's first in the postseason, moved the Knights along to the second round of the College Basketball Invitational. The win also gave the Knights their first 20-win season since 2006-07.
UCF has been selected to again be the host team in the tournament's second round, and the Knights will be hosting the Rhode Island Rams on Monday at the Arena with tip-off at 7 p.m.
The Rams (20-13) defeated the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks 76-59 in their own opening-round contest, and will provide the next test for a UCF team with its sights set on continuing forward in the CBI.
Looking back at St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies did not appear intimidated by the Knights. The scrappy team from the Atlantic 10 Conference rode star forward Andrew Nicholson's team-high 20 points, and hung tight with UCF for about three-quarters of the contest.
But with the game tied at 44 midway through the second half, the Knights rattled off a 16-5 run to finally create some distance and put away the Bonnies (16-15).
The turning point for the Knights came with 9:39 remaining, as a pair off-setting technical fouls were handed to both teams, with Marcus Jordan receiving a technical as well as St. Bonaventure's Ogo Adegboye.
The sequence seemed to fire up the Knights and the next time down the court, center Tom Herzog delivered a thunderous dunk.
"The heat of the moment in the game, it just happens," said Jordan of the exchange that led to the technicals.
Jordan led the Knights with 18 points. Jordan set the tone early for the type of night he would have, making his first two attempts from the field, both three pointers.
UCF got solid productions off the bench, with the reserves totaling 37 points for the game. Guard A.J. Rompza had 13 points for UCF, and Herzog added 10.
"Everything just seemed to go right for us tonight," said Rompza, who also had seven assists.
Freshman Isaiah Sykes had one of his best games of the season to add to the energy from the bench. Sykes had 9 points in 22 minutes, but more importantly, four of his six rebounds were offensive. He also added in two steals and an assist.
Sykes also had the play of the game, a breakaway dunk over multiple Bonnies that brought the crowd to its feet. Sykes' dunk appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays.
"I told him, ‘You're not a freshman anymore. You've played way too many games and way too many minutes, you're a sophomore now and it's time for you to take that next step,' " said head coach Donnie Jones. "And he did that tonight."
Looking ahead to Rhode Island
The Knights were not the only team to pick up their twentieth win of the season in the CBI's opening round.
The Rhode Island Rams, too, entered CBI play at 19 wins, looking for their twentieth. They were able to do just that, riding senior forward Delroy James' triple double on Wednesday to defeat Miami (OH) 76-59.
With 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists, James achieved the first triple double in the school's history. It was a fitting start to the postseason for the senior and second team All-Atlantic 10 honoree, who leads the Rams in points per game (17.3) and rebounds per game (7.8).
With the win, James and the rest of the Rams' senior class became the winningest class in school history with 90 during their tenure.
James will represent the second game in a row in which Knights power forward Keith Clanton will have to guard a star player, after matching up against Atlantic-10 first team honoree and NBA-prospect Andrew Nicholson.
UCF is going to want to capitalize and build on any leads they should get while playing the Rams. Rhode Island has done quite well in close games this season, with a record of 7-1 in games decided by five points or less and 10-6 in games decided by 10 points or less.
Their appearance in the CBI marks the fourth straight postseason appearance for the Rams, who played in the NIT last season and advanced to the semifinals where they lost to North Carolina.